Knicks blow past Raptors at Madison Square Garden to extend winning streak to 9

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Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News
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NEW YORK — Make it nine.

The hottest team in the NBA (and in New York) continued to scorch with a 120-103 victory Saturday over the Raptors, extending their winning streak to a league-high nine games.

Julius Randle continued his remarkable ascension with 31 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes. In the last month, he’s graduated from All-Star to All-NBA to teetering on MVP consideration.

His greatest improvement has been the 3-point shot, which he flaunted Saturday while draining 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.

He was assisted by sidekick RJ Barrett (25 points, 12 rebounds) and reserve Derrick Rose (19 points, seven assists), as the Knicks moved into sole possession of fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Before the season, Tom Thibodeau applauded the NBA’s new play-in tournament and thought the Knicks could take advantage of the extra spots.

“Obviously where we are, hopefully we’ll have a shot at that,” the coach said.

Now it could be a disadvantage. Despite their scorching April and impressive winning streak, the Knicks are in a precarious spot — a half-game ahead of the Hawks for the fourth spot but just 2 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-place Heat (the 7-to-10 seeds in each conference participate in the play-in tournament).

For the Knicks, it means there’s more at risk than playoff seeding for the last 11 games. Of those remaining contests, five are against the cream of the Western Conference — the Suns (twice), Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets.

If nothing else, the Knicks can’t take their foot off the gas after four months of condensed games and heavy minutes for Randle and Barrett.

Luckily for them, they’re showing no signs of letting up.

Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby each scored 27 points for the Raptors, and Pascal Siakam added 26 points.